The Long Life of Death; Way Station
The Long Life of Death
We finally hear the news we’ve been praying for
On August fifteenth, 1945—
Japan’s surrendered. It’s the end of the war,
The guy beside me bellows: We’re still alive!
Shooting and scrambling all over the rock
Of Okinawa for so long it seems
We were born doing it, at first we’re in shock:
Is this a rumor? Some Tojo trick? But the screams
Of joy are spreading like flames through the palm fronds.
We’re going home at last. Why did God spare
The men around me? We’ll have a life beyond
All this. Yelling, we fire our guns into the air.
The shouts of celebration turn to cries
Of surprise and pain: GIs are spouting red,
Twisting, falling. Seven of us die
As the bullets rain back down on our heads.
Only a couple of people have been killed
At the transit center where I catch my bus.
That’s not counting the one who jumped from the top
Of the parking garage. Or the wheelchair man
Beaten by that gang—he didn’t die.
I need to put these things out of my mind.
I never learned to drive: I thought I’d have
My husband a lot longer. I can’t forget
Completely—you have to stay alert. I heard
Another rider say this place is haunted.
It makes me imagine ghosts are circling
The station to shroud us with their white,
To erase us the way they’ve been erased. It scares me
To think like this. But for now, I’ll have to wrap
The fear inside myself—here comes my bus.